In HMRC Campaign Offers Chance to Settle Old Tax Liabilities, HM Revenue & Customs sought to publicise the latest in a long line of "campaigns" to encourage the recalcitrant taxpayer to bring his or her tax affairs up to date.
This is probably the closest so far to a "general amnesty" for taxpayers in that it does not focus on a particular sector, such as plumbers or medics. But note it is available only to people who are already in the Self Assessment Regime but haven't yet filed their returns for 2011/12 and/or earlier - in other words, (non)taxpayers who are genuinely out in the cold are still out in the cold.
One wonders who is the worse offender in HMRC's eyes: the individual who has never notified HMRC in the first place that he or she is chargeable to tax, or the individual who "ignores" all those letters HMRC writes, asking for outstanding returns?
As Mark has already observed in this week's Editorial, encouragement is (as usual) relatively thin on the ground.
As the detailed Appendix A in the detailed My Tax Return Catch Up Guide, the standard penalties will remain payable:
Standard late filing penalties
Late Payment penalties
The only area in which HMRC appears to offer concession is in respect of the tax-geared (very) late filing penalties where returns are more than 12 months overdue:
"By taking part in the campaign, individuals will receive the best terms on offer and we expect that most will not have to pay this penalty".
The real incentive seems to lie more with what HMRC threatens to do to people who fail to take up the offer. One might say that, for an agency that has apparently spent so much time analysing taxpayer behaviour, it might have given a little more thought to the carrot, as well as to the stick.
More seriously, the only real amnesty HMRC has offered in the last few years is the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility, or LDF, ( Better Amnesties if You're Rich? ) which in turn really suited only those who were sufficiently wealthy that they could justify (or better still, move funds to) accounts in Liechtenstein.
In the context of the ongoing public scrutiny of the tax affairs of various multi-nationals, is HMRC making it too easy to assert that it's "one rule for the rich"..? Perhaps. Perhaps if HMRC had been possessed of a fully functioning crystal ball a few years ago, and foreseen how much progress would be made in terms of information-sharing agreements between countries over the last few months and years, then the LDF might not have been so generous.
But then maybe without the LDF in the first place, the environment for international co-operation on tax matters might not have developed as it has.